On the eve of Youth Day and cusp of Father’s Day, Thulani Magazi, the editor of community newspapers, City Vision and the People’s Post, talks to Nal’ibali – South Africa’s joy for reading campaign - about his approach towards home schooling his children and his responsibilities as a working dad in a global pandemic.
The outbreak of the Covid-19 virus in South Africa in March was a rude awakening for most parents. There is no doubt that there are many parents who rely heavily on teachers to teach their children. All they want is good results at the end of the year, with little or no involvement in their studies. More often than not we hear parents moaning about how teachers delegate their work to them. After all that is what teachers are trained and paid to do right? However, a parent’s support is equally if not more vital to a child’s education.
As a father to four boys and a girl I have always taken a lot of pride in my children’s studies, to ensure that they have as bright a future as possible, and do not experience some of the challenges that I did as a child. From my eldest son, who is turning 25 in October, to my seven-year-old son, I have constantly emphasised the importance of education. Most importantly, I have always honoured all their financial school obligations. This is the correct and ethical thing to do. I believe teachers play a very important role in shaping our lives, and I am who I am today, partly because of what was instilled in me by some of the teachers I had, most of whom are no more. I believe not paying school fees is not an option, hence I prioritise my children’s school fees over my other financial commitments.
The national lockdown, as declared by President Cyril Ramaphosa, gave me a new perspective to the role played by teachers towards our children. Most parents will agree that the national lockdown caught them completely off guard. None of us thought that the lockdown would continue for more than two months resulting in the extent of homeschooling that was ultimately required. Currently, there are many parents who now have the mammoth task of educating their children from home. This is not easy, but it’s something worth doing as we continue the struggle against Covid-19.
During the initial phase of the lockdown, like many parents all over the country I personally juggled my work and my children’s schoolwork. It was a tough balancing act. The most important thing is that it gave me an opportunity to see the progress my kids are making at school, and what their teachers have to deal with daily.
I had to give a special attention to my 10-year-old Grade 4 son. At first, I did not pay much attention until it dawned to me that he was struggling to understand and complete the majority of his schoolwork. I had to put my foot down to make sure I changed the situation fast. Daily, he spent two hours working on his Mathematics and English. Ensuring his language skills were up to speed was of primary importance as literacy underpins all school learning. His confidence was at an all-time low. He did not want to try without my intervention. I was insistent on ensuring that he worked without my supervision. After a lot of resistance, we managed to get going. I praised him for every small thing he got correct and asked him to explain everything when he got an answer wrong. I would give him a high five and a tap on the head or shoulder whenever he got something correct. Before I knew it, he was working independently. His confidence levels increased and he started to want to do more without me asking him.
While it is a teacher’s duty to educate our children, as parents we have an equally important role to play. Especially men. While some may see this as women’s work, research has shown that men can greatly influence their children’s academic outcomes by being involved in their children’s schoolwork, and by reading and sharing stories with them regularly. This has the added benefit of building a deep and emotional bond between them; contributing to their children’s emotional wellbeing.
I have always worked and supported all my children in doing their work, but not like I have been forced to by the lockdown. l. Without the lockdown, I would not have been able to learn all the lessons I learned about my son or connect with him in the ways that I have. Let’s take pride in our children’s studies and not rely on teachers to do everything for us.
Nal’ibali – South Africa’s reading-for-enjoyment campaign visit www.nalibali.org for more information.